Thursday, March 5, 2009

Arizona's true leaders come from the private sector

Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) - Friday, November 23, 2007
Author: RICHARD KELLEHER , The Republic

More than a year ago, I sat down with one of the more influential men in Phoenix, Tom Ambrose, a senior executive in the Phoenix Suns organization.

During our discussion, the lack of leaders in Phoenix came up. I swear Lee Iacocca must have been listening, because he has a new book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone. One thing Arizona can boast about is that during its 95 years of statehood, it has had many fine leaders. Years ago, the biggest leader in town had to be John Teets. Greyhound and Armour-Dial moved to Phoenix in 1971. Teets was appointed CEO in 1982.

While at the American Heart Association, we were required to watch Teets' video on management. Teets was a great manager.

Just as Teets' influence began to wane, another leader sprang up: Jerry Colangelo. He had established a reputation as a leader with the Phoenix Suns, but it wasn't until his efforts to create the Arizona Diamondbacks that his leadership position rose in the community.

With Colangelo now retired from two sports teams, Arizona is looking for a new leader. My pick: Doug Parker. This community owes a great debt to Parker for keeping US Airways in Phoenix when the corporate headquarters very nearly slipped away to Atlanta.

Parker is so low-key, it is hard to believe he has one of the most brilliant management minds in the world.

There's the adage: "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

True leaders of Arizona at the turn of this century have come from the private sector.

You need to look beyond politics for true leaders. They've all come from Arizona's businesses.

That's why I bemoan the fact there are so few Fortune 500 headquarters in Arizona. We have a leadership disadvantage compared with cities like Denver, Los Angeles and others with more corporate headquarters. We need those headquarters to bring forth our leadership.

Let's hope leaders like Parker, Colangelo and Teets pitch in to bring more corporations, with more leaders, to Arizona. Government can't create or draw leaders. New leaders are drawn to the area by current leaders.